An unfortunate reality of dedicating the brunt of one’s time to voraciously following daily news cycles, studies, reports and opinions, is that the doer begins to be jaded by the pervasive stupidity of most politicians, the ambivalence of his/her peers and neighbors, and genuinely pessimistic about politics in general. I’ve only been blogging for three months now, but it seems like a lot longer than that. For three months, I’ve spent the majority of my days scouring the web for information. It’s changed the way I think about the world, the way I formulate arguments and present them to my readers.
That’s why it is in equal measure upsetting and unsurprising that there is an entire cohort of journalists and bloggers that are so totally convinced that every single thing their government tells them is a lie. To be sure, governments regularly lie to their people – I’m not arguing that they don’t. But just as we decry and lament that the far-right members of the “conservative” party in America are extreme in their war-mongering, their protestations of government conspiracies and their wielding of American power when they have control of the White House, so too should we lament and decry the far left coalition that yells and screams for utopian conceptions of civil liberties that have never realistically existed in the history of the world.
To live in a complex and progressive society takes compromise and balance. We may not always agree with one another about how we should live, about morality and justice, but to live side-by-side one another in peace means that we’ve been able to strike enough of a middle-ground to where we’re happy to take our grievances to the podium and the ballot boxes. As intelligent as some of the most outspoken left are, it boggles the mind to hear people like Glenn Greenwald talk about civil liberties as if we don’t live in a world where those planes really did hit those buildings. A world where those bombs really did blow the limbs off of countless people at the finish line of the Boston marathon. A world where we are in an endless conflict with an enemy so committed to their ideological motivations that they are willing to martyr themselves to continue it.
The necessity for transparency is obvious. I wouldn’t think to argue that the government should retain total anonymity from the public. But if you subscribe to one-side of this massive debate, over the other, you’re part of the problem. Imagine if a horrendous incident of domestic terrorism were to take place, and it was later revealed that because the people were so outraged over these phone and email tapping programs, the American government ceased their use. Would we be able to live with ourselves, knowing that perhaps — even in the slightest of chances — allowing the government to take advantage of existing telephonic and email data could have stopped the attack from happening?
We asked for programs like PRISM. We asked for them because we made a conscious choice – through our elected representatives – that the means by which our society is protected must be made strong enough and fluid enough to abate the horrors of terrorism.
By no means should the members of a collective society be insulated from all manner of governance and defense – but that’s not what we’re faced with here. For us to, on the one hand, proclaim indignation at the mere existence of a intelligence gathering apparatus that we ourselves long ago accepted and asked for, and then turn around and insist that the government do its duty and protect us from the inevitable attempts by terrorists to try and kill us, is as absurd as it is dangerous. Of course, we’d like to live in a world where we could enjoy total, uninterrupted privacy, yet also enjoy total, comprehensive security. But that world doesn’t exist. It never has.
(Photo by 9/11 Photos)